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Our Hikes, Our Selves

My home was not a fun one to grow up in. My parents were often preoccupied with abuse – of substances and other people. There was a lot of shouting. A lot of throwing things. A lot of not so safe places for a little girl to hang out and feel ok. My room was one of them, though that sanctuary was often breached by my mother who would enter just long enough to hurl insults about something – my appearance, my body, my “selfish” behavior, the state of my room, the A- instead of the A+.

The only place where all this awfulness seemed to lessen – where for a moment I could hear my own voice and not theirs – was on our backpacking, hiking and camping trips. It was as if nature’s power silenced them. Made them realize what shits they were being. Reminded them of something greater than themselves. I didn’t understand any of that then, but I knew enough to look forward to every outdoor adventure because it would mean less yelling, less fighting, less of all the bad things and so much more of the good.

The great irony is that as much as I loved nature and the outdoors – my adult self associated every camping trip with my family. All the conflict of home and the rare good times experienced only outdoors. It was an odd mix of joy and confusion, longing and fear. I’d camp with friends and loved ones and never quite feel at ease, but wasn’t able to pinpoint the source of my conflicted thoughts. Until recently.

I started hiking again in earnest this year. I started seeking outdoor adventures again. Not as a way to revisit the past, but as the only way I’ve ever known to connect to my own voice. Just as when I was a child. I find the trails allow me to sort out who I am and what I want and what I’m made of and what that means. Hiking and camping and backpacking require you to be fully present yet also in great awe of the beauty around you, which invites you to be even more present. Whether the trail is hard or easy, stunningly beautifully or dusty and dirty with very little “peak” reward, I have been finding myself again this year in the backcountry. It has saved me in a time of great upheaval and I cannot recommend it enough.

I’ve also met incredible people out on the trails and a singular truth has been revealed: we are all out there working through something. Every person you meet on the trail has a story. A reason they are out there. A reason they feel at home there. A reason they need nature in their lives, whether it’s an hour hike or a 60-day trek. I’ve been lucky enough to hear some of these stories. Some of them powerful and some of them sweet. All of them not quite finished. Mine isn’t finished either and I’ll be sharing much more of these trail voices and stories – mine and others – very soon.

Photo from my solo hike to Suicide Rock via Deer Springs Trail in Idyllwild earlier this year.


Race Brain

La Jolla Half Marathon

There’s one thing that is required to run long distance races. It’s not strong abs, or the optimal leg strength to get up that crazy mile 10 hill (I’m looking at you Nike Women’s Half Marathon), it’s not powerful arms to carry you forward when your legs are beyond tired. All you need is your race brain.

Race brain did not come naturally to me. I’ve had to work hard to cultivate it over the years. I lost it for about a decade and didn’t race at all. Though I’ve recently become re-acquiainted with it, I sometimes lose my race brain right in the middle of a race. But if you can mentally prepare for it, envision yourself finishing it and then negotiate within that brain and dig deep during the tougher parts of any endurance event, you can finish it.

When I’m nearing the last leg of a race, I start assessing the state of my personal nation (how am I feeling? could I run faster? what is my pace? what is my time? am I doing better or worse than before? is that right leg cramp really an issue? where are the bathrooms, just in case? love her nike capris, i need to find those online after the race, should i eat another sports bean? why do i have the chills?) to try and sort out what my finish will look like. Even in all my monkey mind chatter, it always comes down to a single philosophical dilemma: am I holding back? do I have more to give?

You’d think the dilemma would be easily solved. If I have more energy, I should run faster/push harder. And sometimes I do. Other times, I find that even though I have reserve energy to spare, I like where I’m at, I’m feeling good and I don’t want to push farther.

There is something interesting in that moment when you find out that you are not willing to push harder on a given day. Or that you are, even though you are hurting. Or that you are willing to push only a certain amount harder and you’ll be thrilled with that result. Other times, I really want to beat a certain personal record and I give it all I have. But lately, I find I’m checking in and thinking “You know what, Callie? This, right here, this is good. You are about to finish. You feel good. Who cares if it is 3 minutes faster than last time?” And I’m able to ease into it, enjoy the moment, see the runners passing by, hear their chatter and laughter, really take in the crashing ocean waves and that gorgeous vista ahead. And that’s interesting as someone who used to care deeply about such external validators as published times.

Long distance events show you who you really are and teach you to negotiate with yourself about what you are willing to do at every mile, for as long as the race takes you. Other than regular meditation and yoga, I’ve yet to find an activity like running that requires me to so fully know myself and deal with myself and get over myself and see what I’m made of over and over again, all while under controlled duress.

If you can train your race brain to find that sweet spot between pushing too hard and not hard enough, there is something absolutely magic about seeing what you are made of and realizing that you can reinvent yourself with every mile.


The Hope of Fans

Giants Clinch for World Series

Not long ago (on October 6th, to be exact) I was lucky enough to be at Game 3 of the NLDS to root for my San Francisco Giants. Before the game, my brother and I were in the Giants Dugout store making our way through the throngs of people picking up, considering, then discarding all the NLDS merchandise that was available now that we’d made it into the divisional series against the Nationals after a some-say-unlikely wild-card win against the Pirates who seemingly had our number all season.

Many of us looked at the NLDS merch and set it back down again. There was a common theme among shoppers: “Eeeh. I’m going to wait until there’s something ELSE to buy.” “I don’t want to buy divisional stuff.” “Let’s wait, honey.” After so many fans set NLDS gear down in favor of standard Giants shirts and hats and jackets, a man behind me remarked loudly: “Giants fans are so spoiled. They don’t even want to by NLDS stuff because they want to go farther. NLCS. World Series. So spoiled. You should feel lucky to be here at all.”

I turned to him and said: “This is not because we are spoiled. This is because we have hope. Hope that we will get farther. A belief that we can do more than what is expected of us.” He smiled. Nodded. Seemed to get it.

And here we are: tonight at 5:07pm the San Francisco Giants play in Game 1 of the World Series.

My oh my aren’t we glad we didn’t settle for feeling lucky enough just to be in the NLDS? Aren’t we glad we thought we could do more? Aren’t we glad we hoped for greatness even in the face of so many injuries and challenges? In the face of all who said we couldn’t do it. Not this year. Not after falling so far back. Not after losing to the Dodgers 17-0 (I was lucky enough to be at that game and I’ll proudly wear that painful badge with pride). Not after facing the hardest path through a wild-card game.

As I’ve said all season: we just need one chance, one way to get into the dance. Once you’re there, it’s what you do with that chance. We beat the Pirates and two series later, we are at the series of all series.

I don’t need to draw all the obvious life parallels and lessons and cliche takeaways. You get the point. Hope is a powerful thing. Perseverance has magical powers. The collective rooting of fans for a team that is collectively giving it all they have is  an honor to play a bit part in – no matter how bit it is. You can call it “just sports” or “just a game” and tell me none of it matters. But it does. All the lessons we learn here matter. Every last one of them. Never allow yourself to be counted out. Never settle for NLDS.

(Image via. David J. Phillip/AP)


Farewell Candlestick

Farewell CandlestickThree days from now, I get to play a bit part in the new era of Niners football by attending the first-ever 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium. It doesn’t feel right to move on until I say one final word (or many) about Candlestick Park.

How many times can I say goodbye to this lady of so many childhood memories? I said goodbye during Navarro’s “Pick at the Stick” and I snuck in another goodbye for a Montana to DeBartolo TD at Legends of Candlestick. It has been an honor to be a fan at this park for the San Francisco Giants for so many years and the 49ers for all the games of my lifetime so far. To be a fan of both teams in this stadium has been filled with unabashed joy and heartache – both linger in equal measure to this day. This place gave my family, friends and I so much happiness for so many years and I am wistful that many are no longer here to enjoy the next phase.

Thank you Candlestick Park, thank you Giants, thank you 49ers, from the bottom of my heart. This park and your heart and your toughness and your unwillingness to give up in the face of crazy opposition have given me irreplaceable family memories and life lessons. I can’t wait for what’s ahead. On to a new chapter…

Photo taken as I walked away from the last, last, last event I attended – Legends of Candlestick.


Any Day Could Be a No-Hitter Day

Any Day Could Be a No-Hitter Day

Tim Lincecum hit a no-hitter on Wednesday. The game started like any other. Lincecum went about his business like any other day he would be starting. Did his warm-ups, started the first inning. And the second and the third. Got a few strike-outs, but nothing out of the ordinary. He went about his pitching as usual.

But this day was special and it unfolded before our eyes, though we had no inkling something historic was about to happen.

How many days have we all woken up ho-hum? Just another day, have a lot to get done, time to get at it? And yet the day became something special and we were there to witness it because we were paying attention. Timmy’s no-no reminded me that ANY day has the potential to be truly special. ANY day has the potential to be a no-hitter day.

What changes if we think that every morning when we wake up?

Image via.


Pursue Joy

Pursue Joy

Today is my 40th birthday. There is much to be said about the preceding years. The lessons learned. The moments of struggle, the moments of great happiness. The incredible people I’ve met along the way and the many I’ve lost far too soon.

I could write whole chapters on all this (and I am, elsewhere, stay tuned) but today it amounts to this: I am who I am because of the experiences of the last forty years.

On a day such as this it’s impossible to not only acknowledge all that has come before, but to think about what lies ahead. What might the next forty years of my life look like?

After careful thought, I’ve come to this: I want more joy in my life.

That is not to say I want to work less hours or less passionately. I am lucky to do work I truly believe in (finally, after so many years of soul-selling) and I can’t believe I get to wake up every morning and do that work. I don’t mean that I’ve somehow led a life without joy. I don’t mean that I want to dramatically alter the direction of my life (though more vacations and more writing should certainly figure in) or that I’m somehow off-track.

What I mean is: there are moments in each day where we have a choice. A choice to get amped up navigating the mundane struggle of daily life. To get crazy frustrated when people don’t believe in the same brand of excellence that you do. To lose your mind when LA traffic ensnares you. To get overwhelmed with the many small decisions that must be made. To get overwhelmed with the very big and very serious decisions that must be made (or that life has unceremoniously made for you.) To worry about the metrics of your business, of your finances, the well-being of your loved ones, the state of the nation, the state of the ozone layer. To get wrapped up in concerns about success and the likelihood of fulfilling all your dreams and what it will mean or not mean if you get there or you don’t. We can choose to let all of this make up our days. Or we can choose joy.

We can seek out joy in the midst of all this. In the midst of LA traffic. In the midst of crazy news about our government. In the midst of heroic and inspiring struggles by those close to us and those we admire and root for from afar. In the midst of crazy HOA meetings in which board members treat you like a fifth grader (truly dizzying, I have to say). In the midst of eight years of roof leaks that your developer won’t fix. In the midst of daily injustices that build up, that create smooth grooves on your soul from repeated wear over time. In the midst of terrible news from nearly every country, every time you see someone suffering, every time you pass a man on the street who needs your help, every time you see a smart young girl who isn’t afforded to same opportunities as her male counterpart. We can be weighed down by it all or we can choose to seek out the joy, though it may glimmer faintly in the distance more often than not.

A little over a year ago, I began hashtagging certain tweets with #pursuejoy as a way to commit myself to seeking out those moments in each day. Sometimes it’s easy. There are days where it all flows and you find much joy all around you. Other days, finding a sliver of joy to celebrate is like groping in the dark without adequate tools, without a sense of where the treasure is hiding. But I am world-weary and, you guessed it, I stopped finding the #pursuejoy moments in my days.

So here’s the deal: I pledge to find at least one #pursuejoy moment every day for the entire year that I am forty. I encourage you to do the same. We can worry about the next year, next year. For now, let’s find a way to do great work, to support the people we love, to help those in need, to do all we can to change the world around us…but to find joy while doing so. And if we can’t find the joy? Let’s create it.


Image via.

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Bold Moves

As we enter the NFL free agency period, I’m ready for some splashy moves (this morning’s news of the Percy Harvin trade to Seattle comes to mind; Niners better sort it out during free agency and the draft) and my “whoa” antennae is up as I note some bold moves (note that the formal definition of “bold” is not about a good move or the right approach, but “showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit”) in other industries:

  • Amazon Reaches to Lock Up .Book Domain – And other bookish domains such as .author and .read This is just. Wow. Bold. And overreaching. Ricardo Bilton at Venture Beat offers a succinct glimpse at what would be at stake if such a thing happened: “To use an obvious example, imagine typing ‘LeanIn.book’ and being directed to Amazon’s listing for the book. It’s a powerful branding tool.” More to the point: “Apple, for instance, probably shouldn’t own the rights to .movie, and .app shouldn’t fall into the hands of a company like Google.” Indeed.
  • Sheryl Sandberg Launches LeanIn.Org – Setting aside the hullabaloo surrounding Sheryl’s book and the talk of her (and Marissa Mayer’s) position of privilege (and so how dare she offer insight to working women, so the meme goes), it’s not her book that’s bold but the launch of LeanIn.org, which aims to “offer women the encouragement and support to lean in to their ambitions” that has me sitting up and taking notice. Reminds me of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. Yes, it was a book but it has become a powerful online community that extends far beyond. Will be interesting to see how Sandberg’s bold move plays out over the next few years and if it can increase the number of women in leadership positions. I’ve just joined a LeanIn Circle so, there you go. Hook, line…
  • Google and Adidas Create a Talking Shoe for Fitness Motivation – As the health device market goes bonkers and funding for health startups gets even crazier, Google and Adidas do something that seems a bit retro. The talking shoe? Really? Since Nike+ launched the in-shoe sensor YEARS ago, shoes have been the last place digital health startups are trying to place sensors. Your clothing, your waist, your wrist. But back to shoes again? Hmmm. Also a bold move. Will be very interesting to see if this pans out in what feels like the first mile of what promises to be a 100-mile desert trek over the next few years.

Perfection vs. Excellence

So you know I’ve got a thing for excellence. And it seems I like to make my case for excellence using football analogies, which is fitting since I’m a football nut. Yesterday, I came across Greg Cosell’s great piece on the Evolution of NFL Offense (a highly recommended read for football fans) and one quote (attributed to Vince Lombardi) struck me as exactly what I’ve always been trying to say about excellence but have never been able to express as succinctly:

“We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.

Yes, Vince, yes. THIS. A thousand times this.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the perfection game. Or to realize it’s not achievable and adopt a ho-hum approach or an “it is what it is” approach to work and life and all we hope to accomplish. But when you consider that in pursuing perfection we might achieve excellence – that sounds exactly right to me. And something worth chasing.


Our Fitness Devices & Disparate Data

At the Digital Health Summit during CES last week, I had the chance to listen in on some incredible speakers talk about a very real challenge we face as more and more of us track all our runs and workouts on our FitBits, our Nike+ Fuel bands and our Jawbone Ups: how to ensure that all this data ends up in a place that is most easily accessible to us and in a way that can be useful to us long-term?

It’s all fine and well that I once used my FitBit to track steps and sleep patterns. But it doesn’t motivate me in quite the same way that my Nike+ Fuel band (ever present in every meeting, always reminding me I’ve not yet met my goal) does. Neither device, however, tracks my heart rate during runs and helps me understand true calories burned or how quickly I ran my last mile. I have my Polar FT40 watch for that. So that’s me – three devices, three different data sets, none of them talk to each other. Imagine if I had diabetes to track, medicine to regularly take, a doctor’s prescribed FitnessGlo regimen to work in as well? Where would all this data live and how could I access it in a way that was meaningful and actionable?

This was a topic of serious discussion during many of the digital health panels and though no final conclusions were reached, I feel we’re at a VHS/Betamax standards moment with device APIs. We must arrive at some standard way to share all the data in a patient/customer/user dashbaord. But who sets these standards? Who pays for them to be set? Who enforces them?

These early conversations remind me a lot of the publishing world fumbling toward a better understanding of how eBooks should be delivered across various reading devices. To DRM/not DRM? Nook? Kindle? iPad? My library of books in a Kindle/Apple + Open Source cloud that I can’t quite sort out and don’t have time to address. Sound familiar?

People always ask me why I spend so much time at publishing conferences when I’m no longer properly (if I ever was) in that world. I find that so many of the issues that one industry grapples with (MP3.com was one of my first clients…the music industry made all the big mistakes well before books did or health devices will) apply directly to another industry in ways “insiders” of the industry either can’t see or don’t want to admit.

And so, where are we? We’re at least having the conversation. It will be interesting to see where it goes.


Fit Life

I’ve worked some crazy hours in my life at some crazy jobs. I’ve been in some very stressful boardrooms with uber-stressed executives. I’ve been an on-again off-again runner throughout my life. I’ve been thin and then not and then thin and not throughout my life. I’ve struggled, as an athlete, with feeling good in my body that did not look like the “ideal” bodies we see in magazines but was stronger, more muscular.

I’ve been the woman working too much to find a balance between work and working out. I’ve been the one who pulls at her clothes uncomfortably during a meeting wishing my skirt wasn’t as tight as it was, wishing I could find time for myself to workout, to feel better, to be stronger. To sweat away the stress. I’ve been the woman who wonders how I can manage it, with everything else I want to do in my life. I’ve been the woman who has tried all sorts of silly things to make the skirt less tight and the balance more…balanced.

In short, I get it. I have seen it up close. In so many people I’ve worked with. I have been there, too. I am, on some days, still very much there. That’s why I’m thrilled to be the CEO of FitnessGlo. It’s an online community for women to workout and celebrate their strength in the bodies they have right now. It fits into the busiest of schedules. It caters to all fitness levels. It gives you the space and time to take care of yourself, to get strong and healthy, so you can accomplish all the other things you want to accomplish in your life. There are no big questionnaires to fill out, no measurements to enter. Simply sign up, show up and work out. Wherever you are, whenever you want, for as much (or as little) time as you have.

I’ve had the good fortune throughout my career to work with several health and wellness companies from Jenny Craig and 24 Hour Fitness to California Avocados, ASICS and ReadyPac salads. This is a natural progression for me in many ways and I’m very excited about all we can accomplish at FitnessGlo. From time to time, I’ll be writing a column about all the challenges we face trying to be the best we can be as women. They are included here if you’d like to follow along:

  • You Are Amazing – “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it takes to achieve your dreams and how easy it is to let the crazy rhythm of a day or week or month (heck, even year!) get you off track. I do it all the time. I start the week with the best of intentions. I want to be great at my job, I want to workout regularly, I want to spend time with my family, I want to move some big projects forward, I want to make time for some of the creative pursuits that nourish me and somewhere in there I want to have a little fun and find a way to not take it all so seriously. Great plan, right? Until Monday comes and the day is crazier than expected. Then Tuesday…”
  • The Healthy Company We Keep – “I’m in San Francisco this week and I notice something peculiar every time I’m here. I exercise more. For my last few trips, I assumed it was an aberration. But after many visits in the past several months, there’s no denying it: something about San Francisco makes me get up earlier and workout longer. Outside. Despite the weather. So what is this magic formula? It’s all those people running by out my window. Everywhere you go, you can’t escape it…” [click to continue…]